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July 13, 2015 - Ward Appeltansreport Steering Group

4th OBIS Steering Group report published

The fourth session of the OBIS Steering Group took place on 10-12 February 2015 at the IOC project office for IODE in Oostende, Belgium.

The call for baseline data and indicators on the status and change of biodiversity has never been greater with a standalone goal on the ocean as part of the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the World Ocean Assessments as part of the UN regular process, the upcoming assessments of the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a potential new legally-binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea to conserve and sustainably use biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ), with the start of deep sea mineral mining and with increased evidence of cumulative human impacts to ocean resources and system dynamics.

In order to be able to deliver to these international requirements, the new panel on Biology and Ecosystems of the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), in collaboration with the marine Biodiversity Observation Network of the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), is building a global coordinated framework for sustained biological ocean observations. OBIS will have a unique role in providing a coordinated global marine biodiversity data repository, providing easy access to data and information services, in sharing expertise in technology and innovation, and in supporting the development of international standards and protocols. OBIS will be an important neutral broker to deliver the data for unbiased scientific advice to these international processes.

A new project funded through the Flanders UNESCO Science Trust Fund, the Development of Information Products and Services for Ocean Assessment, is a timely endeavour to provide new tools and customised web portals based on data from OBIS.

The new 2015-2016 work plan is ambitious. OBIS will perform a market analysis to map stakeholder needs with existing information tools and services, which will drive content enhancement of new data types, expanding beyond simple species occurrence, such as absence data, biological measurements, abiotic environmental parameters, eDNA etc. OBIS aims to expand its community to gain better global coverage, with a special focus on the deep sea. In addition, a number of technical developments are planned to better serve our data users with easier access to higher quality data. In terms of capacity development, OBIS will continue train its community in marine biodiversity data management and data analysis, in collaboration with the Ocean Teacher Global Academy.

The expectations and challenges are high, but so far OBIS has been able to keep steady with the data flow (5 million species observations were added during the intersessional period) and has been able to secure funding for its OBIS secretariat. Prof. Eduardo Klein (OBIS Caribbean, Venezuela) is the new chair of the OBIS Steering Group replacing Dr Mark Fornwall (OBIS USA) who served as chair for 5 years.

Download full report.